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ARCHIVED NEWSLETTERS

2012

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November

SIIA TRADE SHOW

Complete Health Systems has been long time supporters of the Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc., or SIIA. This month we attended their 32nd Annual National Educational Conference and Expo, which was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The organization recognized our 20-year commitment as an exhibiting company by awarding us a plaque demonstrating their appreciation for our continued support. 

As in year's past, we had the opportunity to meet with fellow professionals within the healthcare industry.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by and visited our booth.  

Complete Health Systems was pleased to see the positive response from those of you who participated in our drawing this year. Even if you may not have been chosen as a winner, take comfort in knowing that, as promised, three charities have reaped the benefits of the drawings.

Every year, CHS conducts a raffle for gift cards or other valuable prizes at the SIIA Educational Conference. Last year, we gave our winners an opportunity to give back to worthy cause by donating their prize to a charitable organization. The U.S. continues to face a sluggish economy, and CHS felt giving back in hard times is important.

Similar to last year, we announced that we would give the winners of the drawing the prize of a $50 American Express gift card and they would have the opportunity to donate the funds to a charity. If they chose any of the following three charities, CHS made a commitment to match the donation for a total of $100.

  • The Wounded Warrior Project

War is a terrible option, but sometimes necessary. The least those of us, non-military folks, can do is honor the dead and help the wounded. Those who serve in the military put themselves in harm's way on our behalf. We, at CHS, are proud to support this charity.

  • The Salvation Army

As the economy fights to recover, contributions to charities decrease and the need for help increases. CHS helps support this fine organization, so that they can help those in need.

  • The Children's Miracle Network

This organization is a favorite of a member of the CHS team. This network works to increase awareness of healthcare for both sick and health children, in addition to raising funds in order to improve healthcare facilities.

winner1 winner2
Winner: Sarah Wilcox
Charity: Children's Miracle Network
Winner: Sherri Knoll
Charity: Children's Miracle Network
winner3 winner4
Winner: Steven Bentley
Charity: Christian Foundation
Winner: Jeff Circuitt
Charity: The Devine Intervention Foundation

RBS (REGULATORY BUDGET SENTINEL)

FISCAL DEAL EXTENDS BUSH TAX CUTS, POSTPONES OTHER SPENDING DECISIONS
By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

As 2012 came to a close, discussion of the fiscal cliff began to intensify as Congress failed to agree on a solution before the year end. As tax increases and spending cuts loomed, Congress continued to meet in order to come to some resolution that would eliminate the U.S. economy from entering another recession.

On Tuesday, January 1, a deal was reached by Congress to extend several tax cuts that were first put in place by the Bush administration. The decisions that the government made have an effect on everything from individual income tax to government spending.

Instead of all Americans seeing income tax increases, only those earning more than $400,000 per year or couples making a combined income of $450,000 will see tax increases. Although many tax hikes were avoided, Congress upheld a two percent Social Security payroll tax.

"People will notice it, but they will also have to realize they were paying that tax a few years ago and they managed to do that then, so they can do that now," said Joe Phillips, dean of Seattle University's Albers School of Business and Economics, in an article published on MSNBC’s website.

Many government-run programs, such as the Center of Disease Control and Food Safety and Inspection Service agency, can still see severe cuts in their 2013 budgets, which could have a huge impact nationally. The bill that was passed will delay sequestration for two months; ultimately, postponing another Congressional faceoff.

“I don’t think there is a lot of cushioning in these programs' budgets to just move money around to cover all the demand for these services,” said Ted Marmor, professor emeritus of public policy and management at Yale, in an article published on CNN. “It is a real problem when you already have this serious buildup of pressure on state budgets and family budgets with recession. A one-time sharp drop in the budget would be devastating for a lot of people who depend on these programs.”

While tax hikes and budget cuts have been at the forefront of the fiscal cliff discussions, there are looming healthcare burdens that will contribute to the financial affects that individuals and companies face in the near future. Recent Congressional decisions have extended Medicare coverage and eliminated 26.5 percent cuts that were expected to be implemented.

While this outcome is positive for Medicare beneficiaries, hospitals will likely see the financial ramifications of Congress’ decision to prolong cuts to Medicare spending.

"While fixing the physician payment formula is essential, it should not be done by jeopardizing hospitals' ability to care for seniors and their communities," said Rich Umbdenstock, president and chief executive of the American Hospital Association, in a statement published on Medpage Today. "That's why we are very disappointed at the approach taken in this measure."

While no fiscal deal would have satisfied everyone, it is evident that Congress still has work to do. As the U.S. nears the debt ceiling, there still remains a major spending problem that needs to be solved in the near future. Although the long term affects are unclear, many Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that major tax hikes were avoided.

MENTAL HEALTH BECOMING INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT IN THE WORKPLACE

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Providing health care is an expensive benefit that many companies provide to their employees. As medical expenses continue to rise, employers have looked for alternative ways to lower their costs. In recent years, there has been a big effort to establish wellness programs in order to promote healthier lifestyles.

By developing these programs, companies have aimed at creating a healthier, more productive workforce. Eating better and being more physically active are all things that essentially contribute to a person’s total wellness. The theory behind the programs is that healthy employees tend to cost businesses less money, whether it is in reduced medical bills, absenteeism or increased productivity.

While many wellness programs typically focus on the physical aspect of person’s wellbeing, many experts say that mental health should not be ignored. It is believed that the lack of mental health awareness goes beyond the workplace.

Although emotional health may not be as easily measured as Body Mass Index or blood pressure, it does play a significant role in people’s day-to-day life. Often many symptoms of poor mental health can lead to productivity loss, job abandonment and high turnover rates, according to an article published in Corporate Wellness Magazine.

It appears that companies are somewhat reluctant to include mental health into their wellness programs. Throughout the country, there is a stigma attached to emotional illness creating an atmosphere that lacks knowledge and awareness of the effects poor mental health can cause.

“Unfortunately, mental health issues are not well understood,” said Brian Gardner, managing director of career advisory The Donnington Group, in an article published on the Leading Company’s website. “It’s not a positive thing for senior people to disclose. The perception is that if you have a mental illness, you 'don’t have your act together'. That leads people to thinking you’re not leadership material.”

According to the Nashville Business Journal, five of the 10 leading causes of disabilities are directly related to mental problems, including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, alcohol abuse and obcessive compulsive disorder. Symptoms, such as anxiety, lack of focus and fatigue, can add to the normal stresses of work and home life.

“I do think we need better mental health laws and better mental health care that requires people to be seen as whole people and that stops the stigma,” Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, PhD, LMFT said in an article published in WNCT’s website. “Because I think that's a huge part is when somebody's struggling, we often make it very difficult for them to get help until it's to the point where they have to. Because people are ashamed that they can't handle things. And I really would like to see us do a better job of realizing that life is hard and sometimes we all just need support.”

Mental Health America, a non-profit group focused on promoting mental wellness, states that often times supervisors are unaware of how to act towards someone with mental health problems. In addition, if a problem is noticed, managers struggle with what appropriate actions to take. This group is one of many associations that provide resources for employers in order to educate them.

There are four specific tips that Mental Health America offer to businesses as a way to create a mentally healthy workplace.

  • Education: Develop a community that has an understanding about mental illnesses and emotional disorders in order to build awareness.
  • Watch Language: When discussing mental health, the language used should be sensitive.
  • Encourage Communications: In order to foster healthy communications, companies must ensure that they create a safe environment that employees feel comfortable to talk openly.
  • Put Money Behind Efforts: Just as it is important to invest in wellness programs, companies must also provide the necessary support for a mental health program.

Keeping employees happy in the workplace is often easier said than done. It continues to become increasingly important for companies to establish a healthy working environment and develop well-rounded wellness programs that promote both mental and physical health.

THERE ARE SOME BEHAVIORS YOU JUST CAN'T REGULATE.

By: Chacko Kurian

Regulations depend on carrots and sticks. If you don’t pay your taxes, there will be serious consequences – the stick. If you buy a home with a home loan, we’ll let you take the interest payment deduction on your taxes – the carrot. The HITECH Act has a number of sticks associated with the security of Protected Health Information (PHI). We at CHS will be addressing the issue of security of PHI in forthcoming articles. There is, under some circumstances, one link in the security chain that no regulation can affect -the uninformed behavior of the user. This article addresses one method where cyber criminals make unwitting users partners in a security breach.

Prior to founding Apple Computers, the Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) could be found ripping off Ma Bell using a blue box to make long distance phone calls (domestic and international) for free. The subculture that reveled in this activity called “phreaking” was probably the progenitor of the subculture of hackers who, today, like to hack computer systems just because they’re there. There is the story of Steve Woz(niak) actually making a “phreak” phone call to the Vatican and asking to speak to the Pope while pretending to be Henry Kissinger with a think German accent. These are the guys who later found legal ways to take your money.

Before the age of digital telephone switching systems, telephone switches reset trunk (long distance) lines with a tone at a specific frequency – 2600Hz. This meant that the trunk line was disconnected at one end and available for dialing at the other end. The dialing was also accomplished by tones at preset multiple frequencies. How did one get those frequencies? Legend has it that the 2600Hz frequency was discovered by accident by Joe Engressia, known among phreakers as ‘Joybubbles’, at the age of 7! He was apparently able to whistle at that frequency and so attach himself to the dialing end of an available long distance line.

But how does one progress from knowing that you could get a trunk line to using it to make free long distance calls. In 1954, the then undivided Bell System published an article in the Bell System Technical Journal about the basics of signaling using multi-frequency tones. This piece of information by itself was of little use. The second and final piece of the puzzle was published, again courtesy of Ma Bell, in the November 1960. Bell System Technical Journal in an article called “Signaling systems for control of telephone switching”. This article published the actual multi-frequency tones used to control the switches. From that information to the creation of the reputed “Blue Box” that became a clandestine product was a short step. With one of these boxes, anybody was able pick up a phone and make free long distance calls.

To be able to win this questionable prize, the phreaker required two pieces of information and they were found in two locations, but once they were combined, the information became quite powerful. Today – cybercriminals put two pieces of information discovered from different locations together to achieve their nefarious goals..

Spear Phishing is the technique by which pieces of information stolen from different locations are put together, by cybercriminals, to steal your identity, your money and anything of value. How does this work? Unlike the shot gun approach taken by those Nigerian scam artists who send out millions of emails, the Spear Phisher is looking for prey with a small email blast to very targeted prospects. All they need to start the process is one piece of information – your email address and sometimes your name. They don’t need anything like a credit card number, the password to your on-line bank account or your social security number– well, not yet. The attack is quick and over in less than a day, before security and software companies have an opportunity to react.

A typical Spear Phishing attack starts with an email that comes to you and looks something like this, courtesy of the Microsoft Safety and Security center

Remember they already have your email address and sometimes your name so the “Hello” salutation is not so innocuous. It looks very familiar but the highlighted items should make you suspicious. If you examine the links you will find that they link to unsecured and unfamiliar sites as shown below:

Once you click on the link and enter the information they’re asking for, they’ve got you.

Another variation of this technique is to send you an email making you an offer that sounds reasonable on the surface, but requires you to open an attachment with the details of the offer. Again, once you open that attachment, they’ve got you. What happens behind the scenes is that the attachment has a robot program that can do almost anything that they want it to do. It can install a keystroke logger and send your internet banking or credit card passwords to the cybercriminal. It can give control of your computer over to the cybercriminal and so enable more of these schemes to be run from your computer. The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes the Spear Phisher makes the email look like its coming from your boss – again remember he has email addresses and names. The email may require you to give up password and other authentication information in order to perform a “security audit” or an “account verification”.

Key to making this criminal endeavor work is that it requires your participation to either provide the missing information or open the attachment. So the best defense it to verify the email by contacting the sender by phone or alternate method if the email looks suspicious. A good antivirus program installed on your computer can help too.Remember for the scheme to work it requires your participation.

We might as well brace for a number of these email attacks. Recently Epsilon, a division of Alliance Data suffered an illegal entry on its client’s email databases. This is the company that processes marketing communications for loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards, Citibank Advantage and many other large organizations. Imagine the rich information for cybercriminals that email addresses, names and loyalty program associations can provide. If you belong to the Marriott Rewards program like I do, expect an incredibly valuable offer to come to you via email. Do not open the attachment even though the logo looks almost right and the text has only one or two spelling mistakes.

There’s lots of regulations coming from Washington DC these days, but I don’t think they can think one up for this.

CHS SOFTWARE UPDATE

CHS Software you may want to use

Often, we at CHS, are guilty of not informing you of products or features that we have implemented over the past year that you may want to use. This year we have rounded out our individual enrollment, billing and administration offering with a full cycle product. If you sell individual policies or sell voluntary products in addition to your regular employer sponsored group health offerings, this may interest you.

"Full Cycle" in this context means the following:
i) taking the application for enrollment of the individual/family on the web, after getting their responses to qualifying/underwriting questions,
ii) enrolling them in the plan of choice,,
iii) billing their credit card or bank account at the appropriate frequency, i.e. monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually,
iv) applying the payments received against the appropriate invoices
v) disbursing premium/commission and other payments to carriers, brokers/agents and other suppliers
vi) updates to Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and General Ledger without manual intervention after set-up.

We would like to say that all of the above happens "automatically" (a grossly over-used word) but it doesn't. It happens with minimal, but appropriate, human intervention. For example, there are checks and balances in place to make sure that premium billing adjustments owing to changes in family composition or product choices are made accurately. The web enrollment product, CHS iCoverNow, has to be customized with your logo, color palette, questions and response logic. Users of our product like it. It has allowed them to grow into areas where they couldn't before. We believe that this will interest administrators of individual health plans who sell to the public at large and may become a valuable tool in the context of health care reform.